Swan Lake

American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland is not the first African American woman to dance the iconic role of Odette/Odile. And some warn, rightly so, that the rich history of black ballerinas (Lauren Anderson, Debra Austin, Anne Benna Sims, Nora Kimball and Virginia Johnson, to name just a few) has gotten lost in all the publicity hype surrounding Copeland. Others complain that her PR campaign is an overly aggressive attempt to achieve principal status.

Published February 2, 2015
Christopher Wheeldon on the inspiration behind his unconventional "Swan Lake"more »

 

Misty Copeland's curtain call after her debut (photo courtesy American Ballet Theatre)

 

Misty Copeland will dance her Odette/Odile debut in American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake on Wednesday, September 3, during the company’s tour to Brisbane, Australia.

Ballet’s spectacle does not always rest in high extensions and multiple pirouettes. In fact, sometimes precision gets lost in a catacomb of tricks. But moments such as the Dance of the Cygnets from Act II of Swan Lake recapture ballet's purity with meticulous footwork and teamwork. Its cohesiveness reveals how simplicity can enrapture an audience. With hands interlaced, these four Bolshoi ballerinas coordinate their épaulement and piqués as if they are perfect replicas of one another. Enjoy this quick moment of intricacy. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

When ballet companies perform Swan Lake, all buzz tends to be about the ballerinas dancing Odette/Odile. But what would the work be without its corps of swan maidens?

Though not in the spotlight, their task is, in many ways, just as challenging as the Swan Queen's: They must maintain perfect unison, moving and breathing as one, to create some of the ballet's spine-tingling moments. Oh, and they have to avoid foot cramps (not to mention suffer through itches that can't be scratched) during long periods of standing, when they're essentially living scenery.